New report highlights safety and effectiveness of chiropractics, osteopathy and physiotherapy

A new research paper from the University of Melbourne was released today examining consumer complaints lodged against registered chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists in Australia. The report is based on data from between 2011 and 2016.

The report showed that overall complaint levels were low with a total of 1139 complaints lodged across the professions. Of the 5450 chiropractors, 2241  osteopaths and 31,534 physiotherapists registered to practice in Australia during the reporting period, most (92.3 per cent of chiropractors, 97.1 per cent of osteopaths and 98.5 of physiotherapists) practitioners had no complaints.

Complaints received included performance (procedures, treatment, communication, assessment/diagnosis and other), professional conduct issues (advertising/titles), sexual boundaries, fees/honesty, interpersonal behaviour, records/reports and other) and health issues.

All three professional associations, the Australian Physiotherapy Association, the Chiropractic Association of Australia, and Osteopathy Australia are members of Allied Health Professions Australia and focus heavily on supporting the quality and safety of services provided by their individual members. Short individual responses from each association have been included below.

Australian Physiotherapy Association

This paper highlights the very low rate of consumer complaints against physiotherapists. The study revealed that 98.5 per cent of the 31,534 registered physiotherapists in Australia had received no complaints about their service. Of the remaining 1.5 per cent, 10 per cent of the complaints came from within the profession itself, illustrating the consistent level of peer-to-peer regulation that exists within the profession.

Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) National President Phil Calvert was unsurprised by the research findings, saying “These figures illustrate the strong history of self-regulation that exists within the physiotherapy profession in this country. It is something we are proud of and regularly promote to our members, that if they are concerned about their colleagues’ professional standards, they should question it rather than turn a blind eye.”

“While these figures are heartening, we remain committed to continual improvements in the way our members conduct themselves in all aspects of their work. To that end, we are already working with a university research team on analyses of private indemnity insurance notifications as part of our commitment to ensuring the profession remains as safe as possible, for practitioners and consumers alike.”

Chiropractic Association of Australia

Chiropractors are regulated by the Chiropractic Board of Australia and, like all other registered health care practitioners in Australia, must adhere to National Law and profession specific codes of conduct and guidelines. Guided by a nationally consistent law, AHPRA and the 15 National Boards work to regulate health professions in the public interest. This includes investigating concerns and complaints about registered health practitioners.

Both in Australia and around the world, chiropractic care is a low risk modality of health care. There have been few if any serious adverse events reported in medical literature in the past twenty years despite utilisation rates for chiropractors increasing significantly in this time. In summary:

  • The safety record of chiropractic care in Australia is exemplary.
  • Chiropractic care has a very high expressed satisfaction rate with patients.
  • There is a significant existing evidence base and active research base in Australia and internationally that validates chiropractic care.
  • Chiropractors are university educated, nationally regulated healthcare professionals who care for and about their patients.

The Chiropractic Association of Australia (CAA) National endorses the Chiropractic Board of Australia Code of Conduct to support chiropractors to deliver safe and effective health services within an ethical framework.  All health practitioners have a duty to make the care of patients their first concern and to practise safely and effectively. Maintaining a high level of professional competence and conduct is essential for providing good care.

CAA National supports initiatives which are designed to improve the quality of health care, to reduce the use of unnecessary, ineffective or harmful diagnostic procedures and interventions, and to facilitate the treatment of patients with maximum chance of benefit, with minimum risk of harm, and at an acceptable cost. Good clinical decision making also takes account of patients’ preferences and values, clinicians’ values and experience, and the availability of resources.

Osteopathy Australia

Osteopathy Australia supports the need for strong regulation that fosters best practice and high standards. This research demonstrates that the vast majority of osteopaths meet that high benchmark.

This research further demonstrates a very low numbers of complaints made about osteopaths. This reinforces the findings of the Kim Snowball review of AHPRA, which classified osteopathy as of low regulatory concern, in comparison to 5 other professions which were considered to be of high regulatory need. The Research also demonstrates that osteopaths continue to have a lower percentage of complaints than 2/3 of the other registered health professions under AHPRA. This is also been demonstrated in several of the annual general reports published by AHPRA.

Osteopathy Australia welcome such research as it demonstrates that Osteopathy continues to be a safe profession where the vast majority of our members maintain high professional standards of care. It also demonstrates that some special interest groups that have targeted osteopathy with AHPRA complaints should potentially focus their attention on other professions with higher number of complaints lodged, if they truly want to protect the public.

To access the full report, please click here.

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